Key points when dealing with clients

Client checklist
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Clients can be incredibly frustrating, but when it comes to the crunch, no accountancy practice can survive without them.

The best we can hope to do is build a business which services the kind of clients we enjoy working with on a regular basis, who need the skills that we can provide and are willing to pay fair rates in exchange.

Many readers might feel that this kind of nirvana is fictional, spending far too much of their lives doing their best to deal with awkward, inefficient people who can recognise a good job but never want to pay for it and wouldn’t even say thank you if you lifted them off a rail track seconds before an express train would decapitate them.

It is probably impossible to build the perfect practice, much as we would all like to do so. However, by bearing in mind a few simple considerations and strategies, most of us can probably get at least a little bit closer to that dream and smile a little more often than would otherwise be the case.

In order to achieve these much-desired goals, the following points might provide a good opening salvo.

  1. Think carefully about building a practice that can provide a wide range of services.
  2. However, it is vital that you do this without taking any undue risks or overstepping ethical guidelines.
  3. If in doubt about the ability to do any properly, turn down work, however profitable.
  4. Widen the skill sets within your practice either by training staff in specific areas or recruiting either smaller practices or individuals with particular specialisms.
  5. Make sure that you capitalise on expertise and the niche areas that differentiate your practice from competitors and use them to underpin carefully directed marketing campaigns.
  6. While new clients are the lifeblood of any firm, they are costly to acquire so it is generally more sensible to concentrate on keeping existing clients onside and promoting additional services that they may wish to utilise.
  7. To this end, try to build warm, lasting relationships with every client. It is almost certain that they will then commission additional work as well as paying healthy fees more willingly.
  8. As an additional benefit, the most effective form of marketing is to get direct referrals from happy clients. The consequence is that rather than pursuing people who never return calls, new clients will literally get in touch with you demanding your firm’s services.
  9. Short-term gain can often lead to long-term pain. If you rip off your best clients, they will quickly become your ex-clients and may even tell others about your firm’s shortcomings.
  10. There are two ways of maximising profits, increasing fees or cutting costs. Always keep both in mind.
  11. Bringing larger clients on board is often the easiest way to increase both fees and profitability.
  12. Review client lists on a regular basis, identifying those that must be charmed and cultivated but also the ones that bring nothing to the party and should ideally be sacked. Then bite the bullet and sack the clients that aren’t worth having.

About Philip Fisher

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27th Sep 2018 13:53

All good points, although I'd add one more ... your clients may be in need of advisory services in fields outside of your area of expertise (Manufacturing, R&D, Marketing, Sales or International Trading etc), so consider building a network of partners you can collaborate with to assist in these areas. If your client sees you as a "one stop shop" for all things advisory, they're more likely to remain loyal and recommend your services.

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